Police have asked members of the public to look out for a car suspected of being involved in the theft of catalytic converters.

Test Valley Police asked residents to look for a “a gold coloured old style Mondeo with foreign plates” that they have identified as being used by those stealing the devices from hybrid vehicles.

They asked anyone seeing a vehicle matching the description which is acting suspiciously to call 999, quoting Operation Collection. Officers described the theft of catalytic converters as a “district priority” and said they “are working hard to identify the individuals involved.”

The appeal follows a rise in thefts of catalytic converters across Hampshire, with 78 incidents occurring across the county since September. Across the UK, there has been a 600 per cent increase in these thefts.

The devices, which break down harmful gases such as carbon monoxide in exhaust fumes into less harmful ones. To do this, they use the precious metals Rhodium and Palladium as a catalyst to achieve the reactions.

The prices of these metals have risen sharply since the end of March, with Rhodium alone rising from £175.58 a gram to £472.62.

Hampshire Police said that they believe this price increase “has contributed to the number of thefts increasing.”

They said: “We are seeing that catalytic converters on hybrid Hondas and Toyotas are particularly vulnerable because their converters are cleaner and therefore the valuable metals contained within them are less likely to corrode. They are also easier to access on hybrid vehicles.”

They advise parking cars with the catalytic converter side placed closest to the wall or other vehicles. They also recommend etching a serial number onto the converter to aid recovery if the device is stolen, while cage clamps can be bought to make the converter more difficult to remove.

Thefts of catalytic converters should be reported via Hampshire Constabulary’s website, which can be found here: https://www.hampshire.police.uk/ro/report/ocr/af/how-to-report-a-crime/